Australia's Food Environment Dashboard

Australians increasingly consume food away from the home, and spend nearly a third of their household food budget on eating out. Accordingly, the policies and actions of fast food outlets can have a substantial impact on population diets. Fast food chains can contribute to efforts to improve population diets by:

  • limiting the levels of salt, sugars and saturated fats in their products
  • reducing the exposure of children to marketing of unhealthy foods and brands
  • providing consumers with clear, easily understood nutrition information in-store and online
  • refraining from marketing techniques (such as meal deals and upsizing) that encourage over-consumption.
Indicator Result Previous Assessment* What was measured? Source

Food composition

 

Average Health Star Rating of product portfolio**:

 

HSR ≥ 3.5 stars

 

Top Juice
Sumo Salad
Zambrero
Grill’d
Mad Mex

3.6
3.5
3.5
3.5
3.5

3.9
3.5
n/a
3.7
3.2

Menu items available in the largest Australian fast food chains (2019)

State of the Fast Food Supply Australia (2020)

HSR 2.5 – 3.0 stars

 

Salsa’s
Subway
KFC
Soul Origin
Guzman Y Gomez
Boost Juice
Brumby’s
Oporto
Crust
Red Rooster
Domino’s
Pizza Hut
McDonalds
Jamaica Blue
Bakers Delight
Hungry Jack’s

3.4
3.3
3.2
3.2
3.2
3.2
3.1
3.1
3.0
3.0
3.0
3.0
2.9
2.9
2.8
2.5

3.3
3.5
3.2
n/a
3.3
2.4
3.4
2.9
3.1
3.1
2.9
2.8
2.8
n/a
2.9
2.4

Menu items available in the largest Australian fast food chains (2019)

State of the Fast Food Supply Australia (2020)

HSR ≤ 2.0 stars

 

Wendy’s
Muffin Break
Gloria Jean’s Coffee
McCafé
Baskin Robbins
Chatime

2.3
2.2
2.2
2.2
2.1
1.8

2.1
2.4
2.2
2.1
2.0
n/a

Menu items available in the largest Australian fast food chains (2019)

State of the Fast Food Supply Australia (2020)

Energy content

 

Regular menu

 

Average energy content of large ‘combination meal deals’ as a proportion of average daily recommended energy intake (adults)^

 

Hungry Jack’s
KFC
McDonald’s
Oporto
Pizza Hut
Red Rooster
Subway
OVERALL

72.8%
74.7%
57.3%
65.7%
52.7%
56.2%
63.9%
66.4%

Mean contribution of combination meal deals on ‘regular menu’ (largest size, excluding meal deals intended for sharing) to average daily recommended energy intake for adults, when highest-energy side and drink options are selected as part of the combination meal deal (2020)

Looi et al. (2021)

Children’s menu

 

Average energy content of children’s ‘combination meal deals’ as a proportion of average daily recommended energy intake (children)^^

 

Grill’d
Hungry Jack’s
KFC
McDonald’s
Nando’s
Oporto
Red Rooster
Subway
OVERALL

36.0%
41.0%
40.8%
46.4%
25.9%
35.2%
31.3%
13.4%
34.8%

Mean contribution of children’s combination meal deals to average daily recommended energy intake for children, when highest-energy side and drink options are selected as part of the combination meal deal (2020)

Looi et al. (2021)

Price promotions

 

Number of price promotions (‘specials’) offerred each month (major chains)

65

 

Number of temporary price promotions offered by ten major fast food chains in Australia, over a 13-week period (2020)

Looi et al. (2021)

Average magnitude of discount:

 

Main meal items
Combination deals for one person
Combination deals for sharing
Sides and/or drinks
Desserts

41.7%
42.3%
37.0%
47.7%
36.8%

 

Mean percentage (%) price reduction of promoted menu item(s) relative to regular price, based on temporary price promotions offered by ten major fast food chains in Australia (2020)

Looi et al. (2021)

Policies and commitments

 

Average score for nutrition-related policies and commitments of major fast food chains in Australia

27 out of 100

Assessment of comprehensiveness, specificity and transparency of nutrition-related policies and commitments of the 11 largest quick service restaurant chains operating in Australia, using BIA-Obesity tool developed by INFORMAS

Sacks et al. (2020)

* Green = ‘Promotes health’; Amber = ‘Needs further improvement to promote health’; Red = ‘Unhealthy’. Refer to Indicator Assessment Criteria at the bottom of the page.

** The Health Star Rating (HSR) is a front-of-pack labelling system that rates the overall nutritional quality of packaged food and beverages, assigning a rating from ½ a star to 5 stars. The more stars, the healthier the choice between similar products. The HSR system is primarily designed for application to packaged foods.

^ Based on an average daily recommended energy intake of 8,700kJ

^^ Based on an average daily recommended energy intake of 7,100kJ (relevant to an 8-year old child)

Source: Deakin University: Inside Our Quick Service Restaurants Australia 2018: Assessment of company policies and commitments related to obesity prevention and nutrition

Also see: www.insideourfoodcompanies.com.au


Key Findings

Fast food company policies and commitments

  • The majority of the largest fast food chains in Australia do not publicly identify nutrition and health as a focus area. Across the sector, there is limited disclosure of company efforts to address obesity and population nutrition issues.
  • There is considerable room for improvement in the nutrition-related policies and commitments of all fast food chains operating in Australia.

 

Nutritional quality of fast food

  • Most of the products made by major fast food chains in Australia are high in salt, sugar and/or harmful fats.
  • The average ‘combination deal’ (usually consisting of a main, side and drink) contains more than half the average daily recommended energy intake for an Australian adult, with some combination deals providing nearly 90% of recommended daily kilojoules.
  • The chain with the healthiest overall product portfolio was Top Juice, which has a product range consisting predominantly of fruit- and vegetable-based juices. Sumo Salad, Zambrero, Grill’d and Mad Mex were among the top five ranking fast food chains based on the healthiness of their menu items.
  • The lowest scoring chains were Chatime, Baskin Robbins, McCafé, Gloria Jean’s Coffee and Muffin Break which have discretionary items such as cakes, pastries and desserts as a significant component of their portfolio.

Key Recommendations

  • Fast food chains need to elevate the importance of nutrition as part of their overall strategy, and commit to implement a broad range of nutrition-related policies and actions.
  • Fast food chains can play a role in improving population diets by:
    • Setting measurable targets and timelines to reduce sodium, added sugars, saturated fat, artificially produced trans fat and meal portion sizes, in conjunction with government-led initiatives (e.g., Healthy Food Partnership) to improve the overall food supply
    • Making healthier and lower kilojoule sides and drinks the default option as part of combination deals, particularly as part of children’s meals
    • Implementing policies on marketing to children that effectively restrict the exposure of children and adolescents (up to the age of 18) to the promotion of ‘less healthy’ products and brands
    • Committing to not sponsor sporting and community events that are popular with children and families
    • Eliminating use of promotion techniques (e.g., toys in children’s meals, cartoon characters, interactive games) with strong appeal to children
    • Implementing pricing strategies that position healthier products at a similar or lower price to ‘less healthy’ equivalents, and restrict price promotions and value deal incentives on ‘less healthy’ items
    • Implementing kilojoule labelling on menu boards across all states/territories, and supporting the development of standardised interpretive nutrition labelling (e.g., using health stars or colour-coding) for menu boards and online
  • Industry associations, such as the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), and government initiatives, such as the Healthy Food Partnership, should support individual companies to implement recommendations and coordinate company action across the sector.
  • Governments need to closely monitor the implementation of company policies and practices related to obesity prevention and nutrition, and consider stronger policy intervention where voluntary company actions are insufficient.

For more information

Websites:

Inside Our Food Companies

Visit the Obesity Evidence Hub for key evidence on obesity trends, impacts, prevention & treatment in Australia. Access evidence related to corporate political activity and industry influence.

Journal Articles

Reports

Indicator Assessment Criteria
Metric

Average Health Star Rating of product portfolio *

≥ 3.5 stars

2.5 – 3.0 stars

≤ 2 stars

Energy content of combination ‘meal deals’

<30% of average daily recommended energy intake

30-40% of average daily recommended energy intake

>40% of average daily recommended energy intake

Median score for nutrition-related policies and commitments

≥ 80

40 – 79

< 40

* The Health Star Rating (HSR) is a front-of-pack labelling system that rates the overall nutritional quality of packaged food and beverages, assigning a rating from ½ a star to 5 stars. The more stars, the healthier the choice between similar products. The HSR system is primarily designed for application to packaged foods.